Visitors to Oregon’s Tillamook coast will find a variety of incredible recreational activities, many of which offer the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture. One such activity is clamming. Not only is it a popular pastime among area residents but it’s a fun activity for visitors of all ages. Clamming will require some gear, preparation, and, of course, a shellfish license, but once you get out there, it shouldn’t take you too long to get the hang of it. The Oregon coast boasts a lot of great clamming spots so it’s unlikely that you’ll have a hard time catching your daily limit. That said, it can still be difficult to know where to go if this your first time. So, we’ve put together a few tips on some of the top 5 spots to go clamming on Oregon’s Tillamook coast.
“The Garibaldi Flats on the west edge of town are one of the more popular clamming areas in Oregon, easily reached from a public parking area off 12th Street. You might bring a pitchfork along with your shovel to gather butter, cockle and gaper clams from this rocky area. This location is best in a strong minus tide.” BestFishinginAmerica.com
“There’s also a great spot in Garibaldi just below the long dock. Take the stairway near the pier down to the beach and walk toward the ocean on low tide. You’ll find both little necks and cockles here, and occasionally butter clams and gaper clams, as well.” Nicole Miller / Tillamook Coast Life Blog
“A great spot for beginners is at Tillamook Bay, where the four mile long Bayocean Spit offers a hike or a bike ride to reach clam heaven.” Grant McOmie / Travel Oregon
The north end of Bayocean “can be reached by either boat or bank/walk-in access. This area is rocky and a garden fork (heavy tined) works best, or a combination of fork and shovel. Bank access to this area is found at the end of the Bay Ocean Peninsula/Cape Meares Lake parking lot located off Bayocean Rd. 7.3 miles north of Hwy 131; it will then be a mile-plus walk or bike ride on a gravel/rock road along the inside edge of the bay. This area is dominated by cockle clams, though butter clams will also be found.”
A bit further south there’s a “large sandy bar that can be reached by either boat or bank/walk-in… This area is a good mix of softshell, gaper, and cockles. Shovels and clam guns will work best for digging gapers and softshell while cockles can be raked, or handpicked off the surface.” Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
“A good digging area [for butter clams] is inside the north end of Netarts Spit, directly west of the boat launch. Butter clams are considered the best chowder clams. They have a large foot, two large adductor muscles, and a meaty neck. The whole clam can be eaten, but some people like to clean out some of the gonad, digestive gland, and the crystalline style, the gelatinous worm-looking organ. It is also wise to clip off and discard the black ends of the siphons because they can accumulate biotoxins.”
In addition, “there is a dense concentration of [purple varnish] clams on Netarts Spit, directly across the bay from the boat launch, high up in the intertidal zone. You do not need a very low tide for harvesting. Look for small siphon holes close together. They bury in sand about six to ten inches deep. Wear gloves if you dig them with your hands. The edges of the shells are sharp. They are excellent steamed or seasoned and grilled on the halfshell.” Jim Young / Netarts Bay Today
“Clam aficionados might also note that the ocean side of the long Netarts Spit, accessed from Cape Lookout State Park on the south end, can at times produce some pretty decent razor clam catches.” BestFishinginAmerica.com
“The Purple Varnish clams may be dug almost directly across the bay from the Jetty Fishery on the Nehalem Bay Sand Spit. These clams are small to medium in size and require soaking in saltwater after catching in order to expel most of the sand. It is important that you don’t soak your clams in a small bucket of saltwater as they will breathe out all of the oxygen in the water and die. You can prepare Purple Varnish much like Steamer clams, or you can clean and cook them like larger varieties like Eastern Soft Shell or Razor clams…The Eastern Soft Shell clams can be found directly across the bay as well…” Jetty Fishery
“The better clamming in Nehalem Bay tends to be inland from Brighton Marina up to the area around Fishery Point, where the bay and Highway 101 make a 90-degree turn inland. To the north of that marina, where 101 is closest to the bay, find softshell clams and perhaps some butter clams in firm sand and gravel on the narrower clam beds. While this area is just west of the highway, foot access is blocked by railroad tracks. Instead, use a boat to reach it and bring shovels or heavy-tined garden forks to dig down to the clams. North of that, roughly from Brighton Boulevard north to Fishery Point, is a much larger clamming area good primarily for softshells. This is fairly firm sand for walking, and a shovel or clam gun will work fine here…” BestFishinginAmerica.com
“Nestucca Bay is located on the southern edge of Pacific City. Pacific City is known for its beautiful beach with a quite small town resort like atmosphere. What most people don’t know is — this sleepy little town has some great clamming! The Pacific City website boasts, “Harvesting clams is so easy, the only easier way to get clams is to go to the grocery store!” Beach access is obtained from Brooten Rd., approximately 1 mile south of Pacific City. You’ll find softshells near the west shore of the bar entrance and the sand dune at Pacific Avenue. There is also a population of Purple Varnish Clams on the west shore near the bar entrance, I’m told there are gapers as well. A shovel and clam-gun will work well, and in a few areas a rake may be needed.” RazorClamming.com
Want More Information on Clamming?
It never hurts to do your research before you head out on your clamming adventure. You might want to take a look at the clamming information and publications provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They also have clamming maps for Tillamook Bay, Netarts Bay, Nestucca Bay, and Nehalem Bay, which make it quite easy to determine where to go. When you go to rent your clamming gear, feel free to ask the staff questions. Frequently, they’ll have a variety of insights that will help you enjoy an awesome experience. You can also learn how to fine tune your clamming technique by watching other clammers. Above all, make sure you know all the rules and regulations, stay aware of the weather, and watch for the incoming tide. We hope you have a great time clamming on Oregon’s Tillamook coast!